The Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time helps us define Christian


Put to death the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.

voiceSt. Paul, in this passage talks about a physical death. In baptism, and in the Eucharist, we die with Christ, and in baptism and the Eucharist, we rise with Christ. Our Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Second Reading tell us, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Gustavo Gutierrez, in his Book “On Job: God Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent” translates Job 17:15-16 in this way: “Where then is my hope? Who can see any happiness for me? Unless they come down to Sheol with me, all of us sink into the dust together.” He says it well. Unless we die with Christ, we cannot understand the suffering of others. Happily, through baptism and the Eucharist, we die with Christ; we suffer with him.

8919_1243228163516_2601477_nIf we fully participate in the Eucharist, if we really feel the pains of Jesus’ death, we rise with him, and we come to understand the suffering of others. St. Paul speaks of the identity of Idolatry in our second reading. St. Paul describes it in this way, “greed that is idolatry.”

Our Blessed Pope Francis also speaks of Idolatry. Faith by its very nature demands renouncing the immediate possession which sight would appear to offer; it is an invitation to turn to the source of the light, while respecting the mystery of a face, which will unveil itself personally in its own good time. Martin Buber once cited a definition of idolatry proposed by the rabbi of Kock: idolatry is “when a face addresses a face which is not a face. In place of faith in God, it seems better to worship an idol, into whose face we can look directly and whose origin we know, because it is the work of our own hands.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage  coin from 66-73 bce He goes on, “Before an idol, there is no risk that we will be called to abandon our security, for idols “have mouths, but they cannot speak” (Ps   115: 5). Idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the center of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands. Once man has lost the fundamental orientation, which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants. Idolatry, then, is always polytheism, an aimless passing from one lord to another.

Idols are the work of our own hands. They are not necessarily something we posit that is out there, or up there, or down there. They are anything we make with our hands. They cause us to put ourselves at the center of all reality, because we posit ourselves, and not God as the force who made them. As Pope Francis states, our orientation breaks down into the multiplicity of our desires. We fail to see the big story of God’s creation and we focus on the short term, the myriad of unconnected instants. We pass from one lord, possession, to another.

dollar-billThe Jewish Creed comes from three places in Torah. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41. The last is the most telling for our readings for Our Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Speak to those who struggle with God; tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, fastening a violet cord to each corner. When you use these tassels, the sight of the cord will remind you of all the Mitzvah of the Personal Name and you will do them, without prostituting yourself going after the desires of your hearts and your eyes.

You will remember to do my Mitzvah and you will be dedicated to your Almighty Judge. I, the Personal Name, am your Almighty Judge who brought you out of the land of מִצְרַיִם/Oppression/Egypt to be your Almighty Judge: I, the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge.

Going after the heart and the eyes is juxtaposed with God. It is either one or the other. Greed, putting possessions first, is idolatry. When we die with Christ, we put that away. We put on a new focus, being Christ like. That is what Christian means. It comes from Christ, with a stem meaning to be like-ian. To find out what that means, we need to read the Gospels to find out who Jesus was/is and what he did. Then we need to copy that.

Later in Colossians 3, St. Paul describes the Christian life, “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, dedicated and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and long suffering, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Personal Name forgives you, so must you also do for others. Over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection/Shalom. Let the peace/Shalom of Christ control your hearts, the /Shalom/ peace into which you were also called in one body. Be thankful/Eucharistw/Eucharist. This is what being Christian means.

Born on the Forth of July and Tommy point our way to understanding the Book of Job


The scene is Arthur’s Bar in 1970, the Movie is “Born on the Fourth of July,” psychedelic lights present Montezuma’s Revenge, a Credence Clearwater “Suzy Q” type sound, amplified bass beat, a young local group, along with long hair, sullen demeanors…their gals dancing in strapless tops, chewing gum; working class mama with short hair in green t-shirts (“Sure I raise Hell, So what?”) and black shiny slacks; the papas in jeans, a hint of Presley in their hip rolls as they dance; college boys swilling beer in sweat shirts with signs on them, ‘Olympic Dining Team’, sockless loafers, long sideburns, the hair getting longer…

The Back Room – A Girl, Jenny, in jeans playing pool, cigarette to lips, lining up a shot. Ron is in his chair on the outside of a corner booth with Timmy, several beer pitchers in front of them. With them are two Guys in their 40’s, crew-cuts, windbreakers with ‘Brigadier Factory Renegades Baseball Team’ written across the back. A sign on the wall over them: ‘If you’re Drinking to Forget, Pay before you Start…’

Man#2, “Why don’t you shove it up your ass pal… okay? Just ‘cause you’re in a fuckin’ wheelchair you think everybody’s gotta feel sorry for you?

Ron, “What”

Man #2, “You ain’t the only Marine here. I was on Iwo Jima. We lost six thousand the first day. Se don’t go crying in your fucking beer to me. You served, you lost, and now you gotta live with it. You’re a Marine, Semper Fi, they didn’t pick you. You… you picked them so stop moaning and pissing about it.”

When we read the book of Job, we see much the same thing. Job says, “יְהוָה נָתַןוַיהוָה לָקָחיְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָהמְבֹרָךְ.” “The Personal Name gives and the Personal Name takes; the name of the Personal Name is Blessed.”

Job’s wife told him: ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Bless God, and die.’

Job told her, “You speak as one of the disgraced women speaks. What? Will we receive what is satisfying at the hand of God, and shall we not receive rot?’ For all this did not Job sin with his  בִּשְׂפָתָיו lips/judgments. Job next gives his first speech.

Eliphaz the Temanite begins his first speech, “You have instructed many, and made firm their feeble hands. Your words have upheld those who stumble; you have strengthened faltering knees. Now that it comes to you, you are impatient; when it touches you, you are dismayed. Is not your piety a source of confidence, and your integrity of life your hope? Reflect now, what innocent person perishes Where are the upright destroyed?

  Lion and lambAs I see it, those who plow mischief and sow trouble will reap them. By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his wrath they are consumed. Though the lion roars, though the king of beasts cries out, yet the teeth of the young lions are twisted; The old lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered.

Some jump upon the words, “Those who plow mischief and sow trouble will reap them.” They compare this with Deuteronomy and the Law of Retribution. The problem is that Eliphaz speaks in the abstract. He does not accuse Job of anything.

Eliphaz says of Job, “You have instructed many, and made firm their feeble hands. Your words have upheld those who stumble; you have strengthened faltering knees. Now that it comes to you, you are impatient; when it touches you, you are dismayed. Is not your looking to God a source of confidence, and your hope “Hatikvah” (Hebrew: הַתִּקְוָה,”) “the וְתֹם דְּרָכֶיךָ”?”, the simplicity of your ways

There is no deviation, no sin mentioned here. He instructed many who suffered in the past. He made firm their feeble hands. He did all the right things. Now he suffers. No! Job is not guilty of anything in the mind of Eliphaz. Rather, Eliphaz stands in much the same position as the World War II Marine of Born on the Fourth of July. Though the lion roars, though the king of beasts cries out, yet the teeth of the young lions are twisted; the old lion perishes for lack of prey, and the cubs of the lioness are scattered. Here is Eliphaz’s charge against Job. Job is the old lion who has seen his better day. Now the young lions twist their necks around Job’s throat and the old lion roars in pain. Eliphaz’s charge against Job is simply that he is past his prime and he should get over it and let the next generation take over.

To the degree Eliphaz does accuse Job, we need to look at his words. Job is the violent one who received what he has by being the old lion, the dominant one. Eliphaz speaks to a man who lies in sackcloth and ashes and who recently lost all his children in several accidents.

Notice what Eliphaz says of his children, here and in the next chapter. “The cubs of the lioness (by implication, his wife) are scattered.” “May his children be far from safety; may they be crushed at the gate without someone to rescue.” If Job attributes these words to himself, Eliphaz’ words are biting to the core. This is the same man who sat with Job for a week, seven days and seven nights, in the biting cold and blistering heat of a Mid-east, desert day.

Davis Creek Park Jeff ThompsonJob says cold things of himself when he speaks of God giving and God taking away. The time for God’s giving seems to have come and gone, and now it simply God’s to take away,

Gustavo Gutierrez, in his book, “On Job, God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent,” misses a key play on words in Job that supports his position. In the Heavenly Court, and when Job talks to his wife there is a gross mistranslation of words that calls attention to the point Gustavo tries to make.

מַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו בֵּרַכְתָּ וּמִקְנֵהוּ פָּרַץ בָּאָרֶץ”

“The work of his hands you bless, and his possessions are increased in the land.”

Now comes the key part:

וְאוּלָם שְׁלַח נָא יָדְךָ וְגַע בְּכָל אֲשֶׁר לוֹ–אִם לֹא עַל פָּנֶיךָ, יְבָרְכֶךָּ”

“Only send your hand out now and also that which is to him, if he will not to your face bless, “Barack” you. `

וְעָרֹם אָשׁוּב שָׁמָּה–יְהוָה נָתַן וַיהוָה לָקָח יְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָה מְבֹרָךְ”

“Naked/Clever I will return. The Personal Name gives and the Personal Name takes. The Name of the Personal Name is blessed.”

In chapter 2:

וַתֹּאמֶר לוֹ אִשְׁתּוֹ, עֹדְךָ מַחֲזִיק בְּתֻמָּתֶךָ בָּרֵךְ אֱלֹהִים וָמֻת”

Job’s wife told him, “Do you still hold to your תֻמָּתֶךָ your innocence, your simplicity?” “Barack,” bless God and die.

Davis Creek Park 2 Jeff Thompson

Are the words for blessing a cursing the same word? Just a few verses later, at the start of chapter 3:

אַחֲרֵי כֵן פָּתַח אִיּוֹב אֶת פִּיהוּ וַיְקַלֵּל אֶת יוֹמוֹ”

The Hebrew word for cursing is “וַיְקַלֵּל” It is not Barack.” Gustavo Gutierrez argues forcefully that one of the main points of the book of Job is that we need to talk properly about God in the face of human suffering. Here is the main point in favor of his position and he misses it. When we are suffering, the writer of Job argues, God wants us to be honest with God about our suffering, and not praise him, but give meaningful lament.

Eliphaz hits on the same points:

“הֵן בַּעֲבָדָיו לֹא יַאֲמִין וּבְמַלְאָכָיו יָשִׂים תָּהֳלָה

Only in his servants he does not amen/trust. In his messengers/angels he charges with Tehillim. Tehillim is the Hebrew Psalter, or Psalms of Praise,” not “Folly” as is most generally translated. Eliphaz, like Job’s wife, wants Job to fall back on empty praise, and that is something the honest Job is not willing to do.

Job’s response to all of this comes from the Rock Opera, “Tommy,” another anti-Vietnam War song. In his book, “On Job: God-Talk and the Suffering of the Innocent,” Gustavo Gutierrez makes the key point that Eliphaz and his friends are not mean. They, like the pre-disaster Job, as simply hopeless academics. In Job 16, and in his Chapter on “Sorry Comforters” in the section on “Two Theological Methods” Gustavo Gutierrez tells us, “The Speeches of Eliphaz and his companions take certain doctrinal principals as their starting point and try to apply them to Job’s case.” “Job likewise feels sure, not of a doctrine but of his own experience in life.”

Incorrectly, Gustavo Gutierrez tries to pin the problem on the Law of Retribution he finds in Deuteronomy.

This Mitzvah I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.

I today set before you life and good, death and evil. If you listen to the Mitzvah of the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, I give you today, loving the Personal Name your Almighty Judge God, and walking in his ways, and keeping his Mitzvah, customs and Correct Judicial Precedents, you will live and grow numerous. The Personal name, your Almighty Judge, will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. If, however, your heart turns away and you do not obey, but are led astray and bow down to other gods and serve them, I tell you today that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land which you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:  I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life!”

The Law or Retribution is here. Look at what also is here. The Law/Torah/teaching is not in a rule book, carved in stone. The Torah is written in the human heart. It is written in experience, as Job tries to tell us. Another place to look is the Ten Commandments.

Moses summoned all those who struggle with God and told them, Hear, you who struggle with God, the customs and judicial precedents which I proclaim in your hearing, this day, that you may learn them and guard to do them. The Personal Name our Almighty Judge, cut a Social Contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the Personal Name cut this Social Contract, but with us, each of us, alive, here, this day… I am the Personal Name your Almighty Judge, who brought you out of the land of Egypt/Oppression, out of the house of menial labor.

The addition in the gloss adds, “You will remember what it was like to be there, and you will remember your rescue. “Choose life,” as chapter 30 states. Make life at its fullest for all people. That is the Mitzvah, not some Law of Retribution. That is what Job comes to understand. That is what all those who have suffered come to understand. That is what Eliphaz and his friends who have not suffered cannot understand. Suffering brings transformation.

Part of the Jewish Passover liturgy includes the words of chapter 6:20-23:

Later on, when your son asks you, “What do these witnesses, customs and correct judicial precedents mean, which the Personal Name, our Almighty Judge, enjoined on you, you will tell your son, “We were once servants of Pharaoh in Oppression/Egypt, but the Personal Name brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and wrought before our eyes signs and wonders, great and dire, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and his whole house. He brought us from there to bring us in and give us the land he had promised on oath to our ancestors.

Our Eucharist comes directly from the Jewish Passover. The Passion occurred during Passover and the Last Supper was the Jewish Passover meal. The two are linked. In our Eucharist, we die with Christ and we rise with Christ. In the Passover the Jewish community relives the Exodus experience for the first time, each time, the celebrate Passover. This brings Torah, teaching into the present. This allows Deuteronomy 30 to apply. We see the suffering of others in our suffering at Passover/Eucharist. That calls us to act, and that is the whole point of the book of Job.

Investigate the great sin of Sodom and see if we can find it in America


The Personal Name said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, their deviation so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.”

What is the crime that was so great, and the deviation so grave that God felt compelled to investigate it?

Entering RenoLook at the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in prosperity. They did not give any help to the poor and needy. Instead, they became arrogant and did things which made me nauseous and they did them before my face. As you have seen, I removed them. Ezekiel 16:49-50

Sherry's home at the ranchWhen the Personal Name saw how great the rot of human beings was on earth, and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but rot, the Personal Name regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved.

The Personal Name said: I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created, and not only the human beings, but also the animals and the crawling things and the birds of the air, for I regret that I made them. Genesis 6:5-6

The earth was mutilated before God, and the earth was filled with violence. God saw the earth, and, it was mutilated; for all flesh had mutilated their way upon the earth. Genesis 6:11-12

Hear the word of the Personal Name, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah! What do I care for the multitude of your sacrifices/Liturgies? says the Personal Name. I have had enough of holocausts and fat of fatlings. In the blood of calves, lambs, and goats I find no pleasure. Appearing before me, who asks these things of you?

Trample my courts no more! Bringing offerings is useless; incense is nauseating to me. New moon and Sabbath Services, calling assemblies, festive convocations with oppression, these I cannot bear. Your new moons and festivals I detest; they weigh me down, I tire of the load…I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing rot; learn to do what satisfied me. Make correct judicial precedent your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Isaiah 1:10-17

This Mitzvah I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it. Deuteronomy 30:11

The deviation of Sodom and Gomorrah is not hard to find, in the valley of the Dead Sea, or in the United States, Nevada, or Reno. Sorry, conservatives, but Torah has far better quotes against homosexuality. Sodom and Gomorrah have nothing to do with it. Legalism has everything to do with Sodom and Gomorrah, not sexual behavior. Basic civility has everything to do with the place, not what goes on in the bedroom.

Compare last week’s reading with this reading. Abraham serves non-kosher food to angels and they are satisfied. The dietary laws of the nation are less important than civility to strangers. Now compare this to this week’s readings:

Before they bedded themselves, the townsmen of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to your house tonight? Bring them out to us that we may וְנֵדְעָה אֹתָם be crushed by them.” The נֵ in front of דְעָה makes it passive.

Lot went out to meet them at the entrance.

He shut the door behind him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not do this rotten thing! I have two daughters who have never יָדְעוּ אִישׁ known men. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please. Do not do anything to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

They replied, “Stand back! This man, came here as a resident alien, and now he dares to give orders! We will treat you worse than them!”

Notice the importance of “The shelter of my roof.” We have the civility of Lot and his dealings with his neighbors, men who view him as a resident alien, much as we view Hispanics and Muslims today, Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, and others a century ago. Lot would treat guests in his home better than he would treat his own daughters. As a punishment of a kind, his daughters will know him, in the biblical way. His neighbors will not know his guests.

Like so many in our nation today, we see an extreme paranoia. These people do not like strangers coming into their city/nation. Lot brings three more, and this is the issue. “Sodom and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in prosperity. They did not give any help to the poor and needy.

Instead, they became arrogant and did things which made me nauseous and they did them before my face.” This nation has plenty for all, if only we can learn to share. This lack of civility, of Sodom, of our rich and powerful in every time and place is the great deviation of Sodom, and no more.Cheeseburger

What some Bidoun fed strangers three millennium ago relates to how we read Torah


In our Cathedral in Reno Nevada we read the first reading and the Gospel reading and find one very powerful thing in common.

Abraham rushed into the tent and told Sarah, “Quick, three measures of fine flour! Knead it and make rolls.”

He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice steer, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it.

Abraham got some curds and milk, as well as the steer that had been prepared, and set these before the three men. He waited on them under the tree while they ate.

Sarah is much like Mary in this story and Abraham is so much like Martha. Abraham has to push Sarah to kneed the flour, as she is more interested in what the men, the messengers of God have to say. There is something more going on here, and it is in what Abraham chooses to serve his guests. After all, why should we care what a Bidoun Arab served guests three millennium ago? Bidoun is Arabic for homeless, and Abraham was at that point a wondering, stateless, Arab, from what is now Basra Iraq.

Cheeseburger

You will not boil a young animal (Gadi) in its mother’s milk.

You will not slaughter an ox or a sheep on one and the same day with its young.

If, while walking along, you come across a bird’s nest with young birds or eggs in it, in any tree or on the ground, and the mother bird is sitting on them, you will not take away the mother bird along with her brood.

Jews do not serve meat and milk products together to this day, and this is the reason. Also, it teaches us to be humane, and not serve mother and child together. The problem with the rule as doctrine is that it tends to replace the meaning for the rule.

As related in the article, “Its over so eat your chickenfeed forget Travyon Martin and the Zimmerman Trial,” Jesus confronts the young scholar using the parable. Dogma may be in the head of the legal scholar, but the truth is in his heart, and Jesus is about to put it in his mouth. Over time, dogma comes to trump reality, what we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and feel with our own skin. A teaching designed to teach kindness even to animals has become a stale, cold dietary law. The writer of this story about the birth of Isaac, confronts this.

Abraham serves the three messengers of God, a non-Kosher meal and they do not object. As Christians, we like to speak of the Gospel truth. We quote the Bible chapter and verse like it is a law book. We refer to Torah, as law. “Torah,” in Hebrew, does not mean “Law,” but “Teaching.” There is an important difference.

We quote Deuteronomy 5: Moses told unto them: Hear, Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them.”

This is a bad translation, The Hebrew, הַחֻקִּים, does not translate as “Statute,” a legal term, but as custom. “הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים,” does not translate as “Ordinance,” but as “Judicial Precedent.” Think of Ruth, chapter four. Boaz goes to the gate with the other elders in the community and, as a community; they decide the case of Ruth. This is “הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים,” not the US Supreme Court.

This brings us to the first reading. Most scholars now agree that one of the twists of fate, Deuteronomy, which means “Second Giving of the Law,” was probably the first one given. Torah, the Five Books of Moses, is generally divided into three parts, Halacha, or “Walk,” Haggadah, or story, and Midrash, or interpretation. Deuteronomy, or “Walk,” probably came first. Then came the story to back up, and in the case of our first reading, contradict, the “Walk” of cold dietary law.

Israel does not mean, Ish are, El, or “Upright of God,” but “Ishar, El,” “Struggles with God.” Torah is the history of that struggle, as a community. It is full of contradictions; several different groups are engaged in debate in Torah, as to who God is and what he wants. It is a dynamic text, relating the dynamics of that struggle, and we need to read it that way.

Abraham’s feeding a non-kosher meal to angels relates part of the dynamics of that struggle. The writers of Torah as we have it were in dialectic/dialogue. To truly understand Torah we must enter that dialogue.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Adonis, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

Adonis replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

One important hint, “Martha,” in Hebrew is the perfect tense of the verb, “Mary,” or “Teacher.” Both women have the same name. Martha is that part of us that wants statutes and the ordinances.

Mary is that part of us who wants Torah, teachings, things to meditate upon, narratives that teach things, and not required walks down some straight, “Iashar,” path. Mary desires to enter into the dialogue, and that means spending time with the text and the 120 writers who wrote it.

food laws

Statutes and ordinances are easy. Learning from Hagaddah and Aesop’s Fables, the customs and traditions of a people two to four thousand years and seven thousand miles distance from us takes time. Mary chose the better path, and it will not be taken from her. We err in not taking her path ourselves.

Its over so eat your chicken feed and forget Travyon Martin


When this writer was growing up he would often travel the 318 some odd miles from Levittown, PA to Vandgergrift, in the same state. When we would arrive, we would visit Aunt Bess, Uncle Dean, Margie, Sherlie, Robin and across the street, Aunt Betty, Uncle Sai, Debbie, Diane, Doris, and Danny. The hike across the street and up the hill on Uncle Sai’s property was well worth the trip. Aunt Betty made the best chicken. The spices were just right, not too hot, and not too bland.

Red hens courtesy Examiner Cheryl Hanna

Today, for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Father Matthew related a similar story of his growing up, from the standpoint of the chickens Aunt Betty and Uncle Sai were raising in their back yard, as my grandfather, Uncle Sai’s dad raised before him. Every Sunday, and every time we came to visit, Uncle Sai would go into the backyard, grab one of the chickens, and snap its neck. As Father Matthew related, the other chickens would understand the horror of losing one of their own. After some time, they would then go about eating their chicken feed. After all, Aunt Betty and Uncle Sai did take good care of them, only buying the best chickenfeed, building the best roosts, and the like. It is the same in our world.

Every once in a while we do lose one of our own, whether it be Rodney King, Yoshihiro Hattori, Timothy Thomas, Lt. William Calley and My Lai, the students at UC Davis, the students at Kent State University, those killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, the Bangladesh factory collapse, the Hamlet fire, Katrina, the Deep Water Horizon, where ten died, and many, many more. Sadly, we sometimes lose one of our own who is unarmed at the hands of establishment folk, who get away with it. We see this in the case of the first three cases above and in the case of Travyon Martin. Father Matthew asked why we choose to go back to eating our chicken feed. It is a good question.

APTOPIX ICELAND VOLCANOSometimes, we find the system just too big and powerful to take on. That may be one of the reasons the Pharisees and the Sadducees in our Gospel reading, the story of the scholar of the law, choose not to confront Imperial Rome. Those of us in the American Middle Class find it easier to live our middle-class lifestyle than to confront injustice when we see it. It was Gertrude this week, not me, why bother. We forget that the generous people who give us those nice jobs this week, might just be fattening us up for next week.

There is another, more important reason, that brings us to the first reading for this Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary time. That is the importance of Dogma, Doctrine, in Hebrew, Halakha, or walk, Torah or teaching. It is the code, written and unwritten by which we live our lives, sometimes conservative, and sometimes liberal. We love to live by this, and not what we see around us. Our first reading tells us:

This Mitzvah which I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.

declaration-of-independenceThe scholar tries to make excuses for what he is doing. He tries to hide behind the very legal code written to protect us, to protect himself what is right and wrong. Jewish tradition told the young scholar that he was not to go next to a corps. The priests and the levites were therefore liturgically correct in not approaching the man on the road. Jesus confronts the young scholar using the parable. Jesus confronts the young scholar using the parable. Dogma may be in his head, but the truth is in his heart, and Jesus is about to put it in his mouth.

I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live. The command, the Mitzvah, is to always choose life. It is just that simple. The Mitzvah is to choose life from conception to the grave. This is what the evil Samaritan does. He is not so evil after all. He knows to choose life, and this is the essence of the true Torah.

We see the same in the Travyon Martin story and in all the other tragedies mentioned above, and not mentioned. When we strip away the excuses and look at the incident with our own eyes, and our hearts instead of our dogma and our heads, we learn the correct answer, “choose life!” If we let this one go, Uncle Sai will be back next Sunday, or the next Sunday those strange people in that Rambler American station wagon show up.

Father Matthew also mentioned Matthew 25:31-Matthew 26:1, the Address to the Nations. “As you do to the least of these, you did it to me.” We see the same excuse making, in this story, as with the young scholar, “Adonoi, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?”

“We chose to hole ourselves up in our suburban neighborhoods and not see you hungry, thirsty, or in prison.” The minorities are not like us. We choose not to see them. They live over there. They are not my problem. We choose not to see that Matthew 26:1 begins the Passion. As we do to the least of our brothers, we do it to Jesus himself.

Father Matthew was mistaken on one key point. He chose the standard “dogma” which says none of us are worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is standard Pauline dogma. The truth is that we are all worthy, but not because of something we did or did not do. In this point he is correct.

We know that what the law/Torah/teaching says is addressed to those under Torah, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world stand accountable to God, since no human being will be a Tzaddic/charitable/just in his sight by observing Torah; for through Torah comes consciousness of deviation. The Tzaddicim/charity of God has been manifested apart from the Torah, though testified to by Torah and prophets. Romans 3:19

Dogma, Torah, the Law, does not save us. Teddy Kennedy, quoted below, explained what does. Justification, becoming a Tzaddic, just, righteous, charitable before God, does not come from dogma, doctrine, right wing or left wing. Tzaddic comes from Deuteronomy 30. It comes from looking with our eyes and seeing wrong and trying to right it, seeing suffering and trying to heal it, seeing war and trying to stop it.

The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.

Courtesy Holy Land Pilgrimage  Jordon RiverOur future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live.”

For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. This is being content with our chickenfeed. But that is not the road history has marked out for us.

Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged, and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that event.

“What it really all adds up to is love — not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order and encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it.”

When Jesus says, “Take courage,” this is what he means


After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. People brought a paralytic lying on a stretcher to him.

When Jesus saw their faith, he told the paralytic, “Courage, child, your deviations are forgiven.”

69717_470024576383223_55557459_nScribes told themselves, “This man is slandering.”

Jesus knew what they were thinking, said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your deviations are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”

That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive deviations he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and spoke well of God who had given such authority to men.

While he was saying these things, a leader came forward, knelt down before him, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak.

She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”

Jesus turned around and saw her, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.”

From that hour the woman was cured.

voiceDuring the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.

“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.

Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter replied, “Personal Name, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus said, “Come.”

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.

Sockeye, aren't they just gorgeous fish  Christina CookHebrew has a rhetorical rule, “G’zerah Shavah,” “An analogy is made between two separate texts on the basis of a similar phrase, word or root – i.e., where the same words are applied to two separate cases, it follows that the same considerations apply to both.”

The key word is “Courage,” and St. Matthew uses the word only three times, all listed above. One other point needs to be noted in interpreting these passages and this is where our passages for the Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time, the Fourth of July, 2013, apply for today.

Speak to the Israelites (those who quarrel with God) and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, fastening a violet cord to each corner. When you use these tassels, the sight of the cord will remind you of all the Mitzvah of the Mitzvah and you will do them, without prostituting yourself going after the desires of your hearts and your eyes. Thus you will remember to do all my Mitzvah and you will be dedicated to your Almighty Judge.

We must remember there are two women in the second story. The first is twelve years old, and the second has an ailment for twelve years. There are twelve tribes of Israel, a nation ill because wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few.

When the woman in the second story reaches out to the cloak, she does not reach out to a piece of cloth hanging from Jesus’ clothing. She reaches out to a tradition and all it represents, and has represented for two thousand years. It is now two thousand years since this woman reached out to that cloak. This is a tradition about how to make the perfect society.

We can be sure that St. Matthew puts the two stories together, and ties them with the key words, “Take Courage,” for a reason. God calls us to reach out for that cord, a cord commanding us not to reach out with our hearts and our eyes, following the ways of the world, but to strike out and strive to make the perfect community.

Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter replied, “Personal Name, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus said, “Come.”

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.

After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.

The wind, all too often seems to be against us. The wealthiest 20% of the population control 80% of the wealth. That means they also contribute 80% of all donations into the church coffers. They sit on all the boards, write the budgets, and are the main voices Father hears when he asks what needs to be in his homilies. We strike against them to our peril. Nothing is worse than spitting into the wind, as the old saying goes, yet that is what we must do.

Jesus commands us to get into the water with him. The next stop is Gennesaret, where Jesus healed the Legion.

After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the men of that place recognized him, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sick and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.G’zerah Shavah applies again. There is the emphasis of the touching of cloaks, the symbol of what it means to be a nation, following God and not the ways of the nations, after the hearts and the eyes. There is the emphasis of healing other people. Our nation has similar traditions:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

In a sense we have come to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

If America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

Not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

When Jesus says, “Take courage,” this is what he means. He commands us to create a society where all people can say, “Free at last;” free from illness, free from poverty, free to be people made in the image of God. Are we this free people?

“Obedience or rebellion,” was the theme of Father’s homily


“Obedience or rebellion,” was the theme of Father’s homily today, this Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time at our Cathedral in Reno. He took the side that the readings are all about obedience. This article takes the counter position.

Sunset in IsraelElijah set out and came upon Elisha, Ben Shaphat, of Abel-meholah as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth.

My God is Jah, set out and came upon My God is Shua, salvation, the Son of Judgment from the Untilled Land Surrounding The Vineyard, as he was tilling with twelve yoke of oxen, dumb animals. He was following the twelfth, the tribe of Manasseh.

Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?”

Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat.

The first act of Elisha is to kill the dumb animal in himself, use it for fuel, and give it to the people. His first act is not an act of obedience, the act of following the social norms, but of rebellion, against those norms. From now on, he will follow a different way.

Father commented about how the prior story in I Kings is about how Elijah killed the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table. It is interesting to note how God never told Elijah to do this.

As a direct result of the action, Elijah flees to the caves where he meets God, and God teaches him that he is not in the strong and violent winds rending the mountains, the earthquakes, or the violent fires. He is in the small quiet voice. He is not in the violence of killing the oxen as represented in the twelve tribes of Israel, those who struggle to understand God.

Elisha asks to go back to his family, and this is where Luke takes off with the telling of his New Testament story.

As they were proceeding on their journey, someone asked, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus answered, ““Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

To another he said, “Follow me.”

He replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”

He answered, “Let the dead bury their dead. You, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Another said, “I will follow you, Personal Name, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”

To him Jesus replied, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Elisha is the one who sets his hand to the plow and looks behind. Jesus tells him he is not fit for the kingdom of God. He wants to engage in violence, the killing of the dumb oxen to feed his own family before he goes, and this is not good enough for Jesus. We must let the dead, the dumb oxen, to bury their own dead; we have a higher calling. This is not the calling to obedience, but to striking out in a new direction, the direction of non-violence.

On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.

When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Personal Name, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”

Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

James and John are the Sons of Thunder as St. Mark relates, as this relates to their personality. They had not yet learned the lesson of Elijah. If you go after the other guy, they do not rush to learn their lesson, but instead they rush to get even, and you, Sons of Thunder, are the target. Nothing causes people to be out to get you quite as well as paranoia. That is the lesson of Elijah.

St. Paul sums up the lesson for today well:

I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. The flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. If the Spirit guides you, you are not under Torah.

St. Paul tells us not to eat the flesh of Elisha’s oxen. Live by the spirit of non-violence. Live by a different way. Do not be obedient to the old way. Strike out on a new one. Follow the spirit, not the earthly ways of violence we see in our world. Follow Jesus and not Elijah, and the sons of thunder.

We need to go back to tilling the land surrounding the vineyard. Jesus talks much of vineyards. He does so in Matthew 20, and 21. Our reading for today is from Luke and Luke takes the theme in the direction of Luke 20. We are the people in the vineyard who God charges with taking care of the place.

God will hold of accountable of how we do, and that means taking care of the vineyard, which is each other. That is real justice, not getting even, being the Sons of Justice like Elijah and Elisha, or the Sons of Thunder. That means rebellion from the ways of the world, and not obedience to them.